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A Basic Overview
Part 1: The History of Christianity
What is the Bible?
From Greek biblia, “books”; in Christian usage, the collection of writings authoritative for faith
and practice. The Protestant Bible consists of thirty-nine books from the Jewish faith (the Old
Testament) and twenty-seven Christian writings (the New Testament). The Roman Catholic Old
Testament also includes seven “deuterocanonical” books—Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom
of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), and Baruch (with Letter of Jeremiah)--plus additions to
Daniel (Susanna, Bel and the Dragon) and Esther. The Eastern Orthodox Old Testament contains
several writings not found in Catholic or Protestant Bibles—Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151,
Odes, 3 and 4 Maccabees, and Psalms of Solomon.
These differences should not obscure the overwhelming degree of agreement on the Bible's
content: There are sixty-six books to which Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians share a
common commitment, writings that provide believers with an awe-inspiring record of God's nature and
character. Vigorously attacked, the Bible has withstood the most overwhelming scrutiny, being
repeatedly found historically reliable. In contrast to the world's other religions, which depict humanity
attempting to reach and appease God, the Christian scriptural account is the only one of a God who
reaches down to humanity.
The penning of these works spans roughly fifteen hundred years through more than forty
authors, yet the Old and New Testament books exhibit remarkable unity. The Old Testament authors
allude to a new “covenant” (agreement or contract) that was later revealed through Jesus Christ (Jer.
31:31-34); the New testament confirms the full authenticity and dependability of the Old (John 10:35;
2 Tim. 3:14-16) and asserts its own equal authority (e.g., 1 Timothy 5:18 quotes Luke 10:7 as
Scripture; see also 2 Peter 3:15-16).
Christianity is, at its core, antithetical to every other world religion, all of which can be depicted
as humankind striving to reach God or to experience some form of inner peace. Christianity is the
account of God reaching out to humanity, granting people the opportunity to experience purpose and
peace through his offer of salvation. Christianity is summarized as God, in light of humanity's inability
to reach him, taking the initiative, bridging the gap; a person is redeemed not by what he or she can do
but by what God has already done.
The compelling, magnetic nature of Jesus' message has proven to be so prevailing that the
movement has grown from 120 in a small room (Acts 1:15) to over two billion, with about one-third of
the earth's population identifying with the name of Jesus Christ.
“This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander,
Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human
and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke
such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the
reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished
themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise
than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times." 1
1)Philip Schaff, The Person of Christ (American Tract Society, 1913).
From Greek kanon, “measuring stick.” Religious texts authoritative for members of a given religion.
Old Testament Canon: In AD 90, Jewish rabbis at the Council of Yavneh (aka Jamnia) formally
recognized (rather than established) thirty-nine books as authoritative Scripture for the Jewish faith--the texts the Jewish people had for centuries already received as authoritative. These books are the
same that appear in the Protestant Bibles today. The Old Testament canons of the Roman Catholic and
Eastern Orthodox Churches include several books (deuterocanonical, or apocryphal) that do not appear
in the Jewish canon.
New Testament Canon: It is true that the New Testament underwent a compilation process; however,
most of it was established before the second century—twenty of the twenty-seven books were accepted
as part of the Christian canon from the very beginning. This list included the four gospels, Acts, the
thirteen letters of Paul, 1 Peter, and 1 John. Even if the New Testament had included only these
writings, every essential doctrine of the Christian faith would remain intact.
In the second century, a threefold consensus among church leaders emerged about whether a book
should be accepted as canonical or authentic:
1. Because the apostles were eyewitnesses of Jesus' resurrection, the writing had to be directly
connected to an apostle.
2. The writing had to be “orthodox”; that is, it could not contradict Old Testament or apostolic
3. The writing had to be accepted in churches throughout the known world; in other words, it
could not be accepted only by one group of believers.
These requirements specifically prevented canon manipulation by any single group. Disagreements did
continue concerning several books, including Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, Revelation,
Didache, Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Diatessaron, Gospel of the Hebrews, Acts of Paul,
and Apocalyps of Peter. Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation were recognized
as meeting the threefold test of canonicity.
In 367, the Festal letter of Athanasius listed as an authoritative canon the same twenty-seven books that
appear in the modern New Testament.
Apocrypha literally means “hidden works.” Many apocryphal books exist, far in excess of those now
incorporated into the Catholic Bible. Apocryphal books were not considered holy Scripture in Jesus’
day, but were still recognized as edifying, and some were regarded as worthy of reading in church.
Even the Septuagint authors translated books of apocrypha. Yet there is substantial evidence that
virtually no leaders of the early church considered these books “God-breathed.” Reasons why, include:
1. They abound in historical and geographical inaccuracies and anachronisms.
2. They teach doctrines which are false and foster practices which are at variance with inspired
3. They resort to literary types and display an artificiality of subject matter and styling out of
keeping with inspired Scripture.
4. They lack the distinctive elements which give genuine Scripture their divine character, such as
prophetic power and poetic and religious feeling.
Dead Sea Scrolls:
Perhaps the most important archaeological find in history is the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in
1947-48. Discovered accidentally by a Bedouin shepherd searching a cave in the Qumran region near
the Dead Sea, the scrolls had been hidden by the Essenes (a Jewish sect similar to the Pharisees and
Sadducees) just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It took almost 20 years to uncover all scrolls
and bring them together in one location.
The discovery includes thousands of fragments and some complete scrolls found in 11 caves. In
total, about 800 scrolls have been identified, which included copies of every book of the Old Testament
(except Esther), along with a number of other scrolls relevant to history and to the Essene community.
Several scrolls exist in multiple copies. Many of the oldest scrolls (including the remarkably intact
scroll of Isaiah) were written more than 200 years before Christ—long before the fulfillment of
prophecies they contain about the coming Messiah. This proves the Bible has not changed in over
2,000 years since it was originally written.
New Testament Evidence:
For years, many of the Dead Sea scrolls were not released by the government of Israel. Recently
released fragments and scrolls clearly refer to an awareness of a suffering Messiah who was crucified
as a Savior. Some scholars show evidence of fragments from the books of Mark, Acts, Romans, 1
Timothy and James. Another recently released scroll called the “Son of God Scroll” contains some of
the exact wording from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:32-35). This implies that much of the New
Testament was written before A.D. 70.
A Dead Sea scroll released in 1991 spoke of a Messiah who “suffered crucifixion for the sins of
men.” Also included were references to Isaiah 53, tying this Messiah to the suffering servant Isaiah
foretold centuries before. Ironically, some Jewish sects have actually removed Isaiah 53 from
Scripture—its reference is “too” descriptive of Jesus. This find, however, indicates the people of Jesus’
day were well aware of, and accepted, the parallel.
Septuagint—This was the original translation of the Old Testament and other apocryphal books
into Greek, which was made from about 285 B.C to 270 B.C. Several early copies still survive
today, providing additional early verification.
Other Translations—A translation of the Gospels into Christian Aramaic (Syriac) was
produced from A.D. 150 to A.D. 250. Some 15 other language translations shortly followed.
Hundreds of early versions have survived from the early 400s.
In addition to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint, some of the most important biblical writings,
of the thousands available, are the following:
Rylands Papyrus (A.D. 115-A.D. 125)—A very early fragment showing early authorship of the book of
Bodmer Papyri (A.D. 150-A.D. 200)—Additional portions of the Gospels of John and Luke.
Chester Beatty Papyri (A.D. 100-A.D. 300)—Portions of all major sections of the New Testament are
intact (all Gospels, Acts, Epistles, Revelation).
Codex Vaticanus (Early 300s)—Earliest nearly complete Bible written in Greek on vellum (a form of
animal hide more durable than papyrus). Portions of the Old Testament pastoral letters and parts of
Hebrews and Revelation are lost. Housed in the Vatican since at least 1481, it was not available to
scholars until the 1900s. it is considered one of the most accurate biblical manuscripts currently
Codex Sinaiticus (Early 300s)—The earliest known complete New Testament. Written in Greek, it was
discovered in 1859 in St. Catherine’s Monastery at the base of Mount Sinai.
(The complete original work can be seen at http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/ )
The Vulgate (A.D. 400)—The key “standardized translation” of the Bible into Latin by Jerome, the
leading biblical scholar of his day. In addition to “Old Latin” versions, Jerome used Greek and Hebrew
manuscripts for final translations. It included books of apocrypha (hidden works), and for centuries it
was the only Bible recognized by the Roman Catholic Church.
Wycliffe’s Bible (A.D. 1383)—John Wycliffe, a Catholic, believed Christ was the true head of the
Catholic Church, not the pope. He (with associates) produced the first English translation of the Vulgate
and distributed it in England. Condemned by Pope Gregory XI, he might well have been executed if not
for his political influence during the time of the Hundreds Years’ War with France (later his bones were
dug up, burned, and thrown into the river Swift).
Tyndale Bible (1530)—William Tyndale was the first to translate the entire Bible from the original
languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into English.
King James (1611)—This translation, relying heavily on the Vulgate, became the new standard Bible for
centuries. Fifty-four scholars translated the Vulgate, referencing other Hebrew and Greek texts. It is
still considered one of the best translations.
English Revised, American Standard, New King James (1885-1979)—These are modern language
translations of the King James Bible. The English Revised appeals to the British and the American
Standard to Americans.
Revised Standard (1929, 1990), New English (1946, 1970), New International Version (1973, 1984)—
These Bibles are translations directly from the earliest Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, incorporating
insight from intermediate translations. The Catholic counterpart is the New American Bible (1970).
Living Bible (1972), Good News (1976), The Message (1995)—These “Bibles” paraphrase the literally
translated Bibles. They attempt to present ideas in the most relevant language for modern culture.
Though they are an easy way to understand the basic teaching, they are not suggested for detailed Bible
study since they are human paraphrases of God’s literal Word.
The Gnostic gospels are attributed to a group known as the Gnostics. Their name comes from the Greek
word gnosis, meaning “knowledge.” These people thought they had secret, special knowledge hidden
from ordinary people.
Of the 52 writings, (Nag Hammadi and Gnostic Gospels), only a few are actually listed as gospels. As
we shall see, these so-called gospels are markedly different from the New Testament Gospels, Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John.
As Christianity spread, the Gnostics mixed some doctrines and elements of Christianity into their
beliefs, morphing Gnosticism into a counterfeit Christianity. Perhaps they did it to keep recruitment
numbers up and make Jesus a poster child for their cause. However, for their system of thought to fit
with Christianity, Jesus needed to be reinvented, stripped of both his humanity and his absolute deity.
In The Oxford History of Christianity John McManners wrote of the Gnostics’ mixture of Christian and
Gnosticism was (and still is) a theosophy with many ingredients. Occultism and oriental
mysticism became fused with astrology, magic. … They collected sayings of Jesus
shaped to fit their own interpretation (as in the Gospel of Thomas), and offered their
adherents an alternative or rival form of Christianity.1
A mild strain of the philosophy was already growing in the first century just decades after the death of
Jesus. The apostles, in their teaching and writings, went to great lengths to condemn these beliefs as
being opposed to the truth of Jesus, to whom they were eyewitnesses.
Check out, for example, what the apostle John wrote near the end of the first century:
Who is the great liar? The one who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Such people are
antichrists, for they have denied the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22).
Following the apostles’ teaching, the early church leaders unanimously condemned the Gnostics as a
cult. Church father Irenaeus, writing 140 years before the Council of Nicaea, confirmed that the
Gnostics were condemned by the church as heretics. He also rejected their “gospels.” However,
referring to the four New Testament Gospels, he said, “It is not possible that the Gospels can be either
more or fewer in number than they are.” 2
Christian theologian Origen wrote this in the early third century, more than a hundred years before
I know a certain gospel which is called “The Gospel according to Thomas” and a “Gospel
according to Matthias,” and many others have we read—lest we should in any way be
considered ignorant because of those who imagine they possess some knowledge if they are
acquainted with these. Nevertheless, among all these we have approved solely what the church
has recognized, which is that only four gospels should be accepted.3
There we have it in the words of a highly regarded early church leader. The Gnostics were recognized
as a non-Christian cult well before the Council of Nicaea.
When it comes to the Gnostic gospels, just about every book carries the name of a New Testament
character: the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Judas, and so
on. But were they even written by their purported authors?
The Gnostic gospels are dated about 110 to 300 years after Christ, and no credible scholar believes any
of them could have been written by their namesakes. In James M. Robinson’s comprehensive The Nag
Hammadi Library, we learn that the Gnostic gospels were written by “largely unrelated and anonymous
authors.”4 Dr. Darrell L. Bock, professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary,
wrote, “The bulk of this material is a few generations removed from the foundations of the Christian
faith, a vital point to remember when assessing the contents.”5
New Testament scholar Norman Geisler commented on two Gnostic writings, the Gospel of Peter and
the Acts of John. (These Gnostic writings are not to be confused with the New Testament books written
by John and Peter.) “The Gnostic writings were not written by the apostles, but by men in the second
century (and later) pretending to use apostolic authority to advance their own teachings. Today we call
this fraud and forgery.”6
The Gnostic gospels are not historical accounts of Jesus’ life but instead are largely esoteric sayings,
shrouded in mystery, leaving out historical details such as names, places, and events. This is in striking
contrast to the New Testament Gospels, which contain innumerable historical facts about Jesus’ life,
ministry, and words.
Fraudulent writings that were rejected by the early church for heretical views are not secret, having
been known about for centuries. No surprise there. They have never been considered part of the
authentic writings of the apostles. They are not secret, nor do they disprove Christianity. New
Testament scholar Raymond Brown has said of the Gnostic gospels, "We learn not a single verifiable
new fact about the historical Jesus' ministry, and only a few new sayings that might possibly have been
Unlike the Gnostic gospels, whose authors are unknown and who were not eyewitnesses, the New
Testament we have today has passed numerous tests for authenticity. The contrast is devastating to
those pushing conspiracy theories. New Testament historian F. F. Bruce wrote, "There is no body of
ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New
Sources for (The Gnostics):
1. John McManners, ed., The Oxford History of Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press,
2. Darrell L. Bock, Breaking the Da Vinci Code (Nashville: Nelson, 2004), 114.
3. Bock, 119-120.
4. Quoted in James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library: The Definitive Translation of
the Gnostic Scriptures (HarperCollins, 1990), 13.
5. Bock, 64.
6. Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, When Skeptics Ask (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 156.
7. Quoted in Erwin Lutzer, The Da Vinci Deception (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2004), 32.
8. Quoted in Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA:
Here's Life, 1999, 37.)
Why Writings Were Included In or Excluded From the Bible
Reason for Acceptance As
Reason for Exclusion
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
From the time of Moses, Israel
accepted God's self-revelation to
Moses through the Torah as the
authoritative standard for their lives.
Further writings could be accepted
as authoritative only if they
conform to the Torah.
Joshua, Judges, Samuel (1 and 2),
Kings (1 and 2), Isaiah, Jeremiah,
Ezekiel, Minor Prophets: (Hosea,
Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah,
Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk,
Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah,
At least as early as the
intertestamental period (c. 400-4
BC), these writings were recognized
as authoritative prophetic utterances
conforming to God's self-revelation
in the Torah. During this time, the
Jewish people came to understand
that divine prophecies had ceased
(for whatever length of time) after
these books were written.
Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of
Solomon (songs), Ruth,
Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah,
Chronicles (1 and 2)
In addition to conforming to the
Torah's teachings, these Hebrew
documents had important functions
in corporate worship and personal
devotion. (The Jews consider their
Bible to have twenty-four books,
rather than the protestant Old
Testament thirty-nine, because they
count the twelve minor prophets as
a single book, and they group
together 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2
Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, and
Tobit, Judith, additions to Esther, 1
and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of
Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach
(Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, additions
to Daniel (Susanna, Bel and the
Accepted by Roman Catholic and
Eastern Orthodox Churches, but
excluded by Jews and Protestants
for the following reasons:
(1) These apocryphal (or
deuterocanonical) books, never part
of the Hebrew Bible, were later
additions written in Greek. (2) They
stand outside the twenty-four books
recognized at least as early as the
late-first century AD as God's
authoritative self-revelation to the
Reason for Acceptance As
Reason for Exclusion
1 Esdras (called 2 Esdras in the
Russian Orthodox Church), Prayer
of Manaseh, Psalm 151, 3 and 4
Accepted by the Eastern Orthodox,
but excluded by Jews and
Protestants for the same reasons as
with other apocryphal books. The
Roman Catholic Church excludes
them primarily because they were
never widely accepted or used in the
Western half of the Roman empire.
2 Esdras (called 3 Esdras in the
Russian Orthodox Church)
Accepted by the Russian Orthodox
(Slavonic) and Ethiopian Orthodox
Churches. Other Christians exclude
2 Esdras largely because it was
written after the time of Jesus Christ
and because it wasn't universally
recognized among Christians.
One of Jesus' first followers,
Matthew was an eyewitness of his
life and ministry.
John Mark served as the apostle
Peter's translator; as such, the words
of Mark's gospel reflect Peter's
Luke and Acts (65-70)
Luke was an associate of Paul (Col.
4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 24), an
apostle specially commissioned by
John; 1, 2, and 3 John; Revelation One of Jesus' first followers, John
was an eyewitness of his life and
Romans (55), 1 and 2 Corinthians (54,
55), Galatians (49), Ephesians (60),
Philippians (61), Colossians (60), 1
and 2 Thessalonians (51), 1 and 2
Timothy (62, 63), Titus (62),
Paul was an eyewitness of the
resurrected Jesus, who personally
commissioned him as an apostle
(Acts 9:1-17; 1 Cor. 15:8-10; Gal.
Although initially disputed,
Hebrews was accepted into the
canon because of its connection
(through Timothy) to the apostle
Because James was Jesus' physical
half-brother, his testimony to Jesus
was viewed as apostolic and
authoritative (Gal. 1:19).
Reason for Acceptance As
1 and 2 Peter (60s? 65)
One of Christ's first followers,
Simon Peter was an eyewitness of
his life and ministry.
Jude seems also to have been a
physical half-brother of Jesus. As
such, his testimony—like that of
James—was viewed as apostolic
Reason for Exclusion
Although completely orthodox and in
agreement with the canonical New
Testament, Didache was eventually
excluded from the canon, possibly
because it could not be clearly
connected to an apostle.
The Epistle of Barnabas
Appears in Codex Sinaiticus in an
appendix to the New Testament, but
was ultimately excluded from the
New Testament, probably because it
contains a false prophecy and because
of its anti-Jewish tone.
Shepherd of Hermas
Excluded primarily because it could
not be connected to an eyewitness of
Jesus; probably written around 150 by
the brother of Pius, bishop of Rome.
Harmonized (and edited) version of
the canonical Gospels; probably
excluded because it didn't provide any
The Gospel of the Hebrews
Has been lost; may have been an early
version of the canonical gospel of
The Acts of Paul
Excluded because it didn't represent
historical testimony. A church leader
admitted around 160 that he'd written
this novel “out of respect for Paul.”
The Apocalypse of Peter
Rejected (although completely
orthodox) because Peter didn't write
it. (Authored around 135, long after
Late-first century Christian writing by
Clement of Rome. Although some
early Christians used it alongside the
New Testament, it was never
considered part of the canon.
Reason for Acceptance As
Reason for Exclusion
Gospel of Matthias
Second-century document now lost.
This text seems to have passed out of
Christian usage because (1) no clear
evidence suggested that the apostle
Matthias actually wrote it and (2) it
was used by a heretical sect known as
“the Nazarenes” not to be confused
with present-day Nazarenes or church
of the Nazarene.
Gospel of the Egyptians
Second-century document; survives
only in fragmented quotations.
Although many second and thirdcentury Christians were familiar with
it, it was never considered to have any
place among the canonical Scriptures.
Infancy Gospel of Thomas
Mid-second century; an account,
supposedly written by the apostle
Thomas, of the childhood of Jesus;
forms the source of many non-biblical
legends regarding Jesus' early years.
The author's style of writing and lack
of knowledge about Jewish traditions
suggest that the document was written
long after Thomas's death; it cannot
be connected to any eyewitness
account of Jesus' life. No early
Christian writer considered this
document to have any authority for
Infancy Gospel of James
Mid or late-second century; an
account, allegedly written by James
the Just, of the life of Mary (Jesus'
mother) and birth of Jesus. The
writing style suggests a composition
date at least a century after the death
of James the just. No early Christian
writer considered this document to
have any authority for believers.
Acts of John
Mid-second century docetic writing;
supposed account of two journeys by
the apostle John to Ephesus. Never
claims to have been written by an
apostle. No early Christian writer
considered this document to have any
authority for believers.
Reason for Acceptance As
Reason for Exclusion
Acts of Peter
Late-second century Christian
writing; based on the earlier Acts of
John; narrates a fictionalized “miracle
contest” between Simon Peter and the
magician Simon Magus (contrast with
Acts 8). The concluding chapters
describe Peter's death by upside-down
crucifixion; these chapters may
represent an authentic tradition as to
his execution. Nevertheless, no early
Christian writer considered this
document to have any place among
Scripture, possibly because it could
not be clearly connected to an
Acts of Andrew
Late-second or early-third century
Christian document; supposed
account of the apostle Andrew's
missionary journeys and martyrdom.
Seems to have utilized Acts of John
and Acts of Peter as sources; it may
have come from the same author, who
was certainly not an eyewitness of
first-century events. No early
Christian writer considered this
document to have any authority for
Nag Hammadi papyri
Also known as the Gnostic Gospels, they are a collection of more than forty Gnostic documents,
unearthed in the mid-1940s near Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt. According to The Da Vinci Code,
these are “the earliest Christian records. Troublingly, they do not match up with the gospels in the
Bible” (DVC 245-246).
The Nag Hammadi documents do not “match up with the gospels in the Bible”---That much is true.
The documents found at Nag Hammadi are NOT, however, “the earliest Christian records.” The
documents in the New Testament were written between AD 40 and 100. Most of the texts at Nag
Hammadi were copied between the third and fifth centuries AD. In fact, the oldest document at Nag
Hammadi is probably Gospel of Thomas, which was written around AD 140—nearly a half century
later than the latest New Testament text! ALL of the Apostles that are attributed to the Gnostic texts
had been martyred or died by this time.
Approximate Date of
Summery of Contents
Acts of Peter and the Twelve
Tale of a pearl merchant who turns
out to be Jesus; not to be confused
with the Christian writing Acts of
Peter from the late second century
Refers to Gnostics as members of a
race of Seth (allogenes means “from
Apocalypse of Adam
Adam tells Seth how he and Eve
became more powerful than their
Creator, never explicitly mentions any
Christian themes or characters
Apocalypse of James 1
Supposed dialogue between Jesus and
James the brother of Jesus
Apocalypse of James 2
Supposed dialogue between Jesus and
James the brother of Jesus, ending
with James' martyrdom
Apocryphon of James
Mildly Gnostic letter, claiming to
come from James the brother of Jesus
Apocryphon of John
Presents the deity of the Old
Testament and creator of the physical
world as an evil demi-god
Greek philosophical tractate
Gnostic tractate, urging people to
avoid physical pleasures
Book of Thomas the Contender
Supposed “secret words” spoken by
Jesus to Thomas and recorded by
Matthias; perhaps connected to the
Gospel of Matthias
Approximate Date of
Summery of Contents
Concept of Our Great Power
Gnostic description of salvation and
of the end of the world
Coptic Apocalypse of Paul
AD 160—260, perhaps later
Describes Paul's supposed ascension
through several levels of heaven
Coptic Apocalypse of Peter
Describes Jesus as if he possessed no
Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians
Presents Jesus as the reincarnation of
Seth, third son of Adam and Eve
Dialogue of the Savior
Found only in fragments, which
present a consistently negative view
of sexuality and of women
Discourse on the Eighth and
Guide for Gnostics to experience the
Epistle of Peter to Philip
Supposed letter, followed by Gnostic
discourse concerning the nature of
Eugnostos the Blessed
Presentation of Gnostic cosmology;
some elements may be pre-Christian
Exegesis on the Soul
Short story, recounting the Gnostic
myth of the soul's fall from heaven
Gospel of Basilides
Now lost, mentioned by Irenaeus,
Origen, and Jerome. No early
Christian writer considered it
authoritative or scripture
Gospel of Eve
Now lost, Quoted by Epiphanius of
Salamis, who claimed that some
Gnostics used it to justify sexual
immorality. No early Christian writer
considered it authoritative or scripture
Gospel of Judas
Alleged account of Christ's life. Only
one copy in which large portions are
missing. Presents Judas Iscariot as
hero of the Jesus story. No early
Christian writer considered it
authoritative or scripture
Gospel of Mary
Two small extant fragments are
translations of earlier Greek texts;
words and phrases are missing.
Although frequently called Gospel of
Mary Magdalene, the text never
indicates which of the seven New
Testament disciples named “Mary”.
No early Christian writer considered
it authoritative or scripture .
Approximate Date of
Summery of Contents
Gospel of Philip
Collection of Gnostic sayings from
several previous writings, apparently
reflecting the teachings of Valentinus
Gospel of Thomas
List of supposed sayings of Jesus. No
early Christian writer considered it
authoritative or scripture
Gospel of Truth
Gnostic reworking of the Creation
and of the ministry of Jesus
Hypostatis of the Archons
Mythological presentation of Gnostic
Fragments of text describe the descent
of a heavenly figure similar to Sophia
Interpretation of Knowledge
Valentinian reinterpretation of the
teachings of Jesus and Paul
Descriptions of Gnostic experiences
Fragments of text seem to provide a
Gnostic reinterpretation of the Old
Testament account of Melckizedek
Origin of the World
Presentation of Gnostic theology
Paraphrase of Shem
Fragments, presenting a negative
view of sexuality
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Brief prayer of gratitude for having
Prayer of the Apostle Paul
Brief prayer with similarities to Three
Steles of Seth and Gospel of Philip
Gnostic adaptation of the philosopher
Plato's classic work
Sentences of Sextus
List of wise sayings
Sophia of Jesus Christ
Uncertain, some portions may
stem from the late first or early
List of supposed questions from the
apostles, to which Jesus provides
Gnostic answers; probably an
adaptation of Eugnostos
Teachings of Silvanus
Unlike other Nag Hammadi
documents, not a Gnostic text;
emphasizes spiritual growth through
Testimony of Truth
Polemic against competing Gnostic
Thought of Norea
Depicts a feminine savior, apparently
the counterpart of the Biblical figure
Approximate Date of
Summery of Contents
Three Steles of Seth
Includes many Gnostic hymns and
Thunder, Perfect Mind
A divine female figure, “Thunder,”
sings hymns about herself; not clearly
Gnostic, Jewish, or Christian in origin
Treatise of the Great Seth
Supposedly the words of Jesus to a
group of Gnostic believers; Simon of
Cyrene is crucified instead of Jesus
Treatise on the Resurrection
Brief letter denying the future
physical resurrection of believers
Description of the descent of “the
First Thought” of God into the world
Gnostic description of salvation
history and cosmology
Valentinian Exposition on
Baptism, Anointing, and the
Gnostic reinterpretations of Christian
Description of Gnostic cosmology
Old Testament Breakdown
? - 1445 B.C.
1445 - 1405 B.C.
1444 - 1405 B.C.
450 - 425 B.C.
Second Chronicles Ezra?
450 - 425 B.C.
445 - 425 B.C.
Sons of Korah wrote Psalms 42, 44-49, 84-85, 87; Asaph wrote Psalms 50, 7383; Heman wrote Psalm 88; Ethan wrote Psalm 89; Hezekiah wrote Psalms 120123, 128-130, 132, 134-136;
Solomon wrote Psalms 72, 127.
Solomon wrote 1-29
Agur wrote 30
Lemuel wrote 31
950 - 700 B.C.
Song of Solomon
740 - 680 B.C.
627 - 585 B.C.
840 or 586 B.C.
663 - 612 B.C.
520 - 518 B.C.
450 - 600 B.C.
*NOTE: These dates are not always exact, but are very good estimates.
New Testament and Early Church Writings:
Comparisons from the first four centuries
First Century Writings (A.D. 0 - 100)
Galatians (49), James
(49?), Matthew (50-70),
1 Thessalonians (51), 2
Thessalonians (51), 1
Corinthians (55), 2
Romans (58), 1 Peter
(60s?), Hebrews (60s?),
Philemon (62), 2 Peter
(65), Mark (65), Jude
(65-70), 1 Timothy (66),
2 Timothy, Titus (66),
Revelation (late 60s or
mid 90s), John & 1,2,3
Second Century Writings (A.D. 100 - 200)
Gospel of Thomas,
Gospel of the Ebionites,
Secret Book of James,
Gospel of Peter.
Dialogue of the Savior,
Gospel of Basilides,
Gospel of Truth,
Apocryphon of john,
Gospel of Judas, Gospel
of Eve, Acts of Thomas.
Epistle of Barnabas,
Apocalypse of Peter,
Gospel of Matthias,
Gospel of the Egyptians,
Shepherd of Hermas,
Gospel of Thomas,
Infancy Gospel of
James, Acts of Paul,
Acts of Peter.
Third Century Writings (A.D. 200 - 300)
Vision of the Saviour,
Gospel of Mary, Gospel
of Philip, Coptic Gospel
of the Egyptians, Coptic
Apocalypse of Peter
Acts of Andrew
Fourth Century Writings (A.D. 300 - 400)
Coptic Apocalypse of
Gospel of Nicodemus,
Apocalypse of Paul
The Final Result: Comparisons of Bibles
The sixty-six books
listed above under
The sixty-six, plus
Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of
Solomon, Wisdom of
Baruch, 1 and 2
Maccabees, additions to
Daniel and Esther.
The sixty-six, plus 1
Esdras, Tobit, Judith,
Psalm 151, Wisdom of
Solomon, Wisdom of
Baruch, Odes (with
Prayer of Manasseh),
1,2,3, and 4 Maccabees,
additions to Daniel and
The sixty-six, plus 1
and 2 Esdras, Tobit,
Judith, Psalm 151,
Wisdom of Solomon,
Wisdom of Sirach
Baruch, Prayer of
Manasseh, 1,2,3, and 4
Maccabees, additions to
Daniel and Esther.
Why Are There Different Versions Of The Bible?
When people hear there are over 50 different versions of the Bible in English alone, they often
think to themselves, "No wonder there are many denominations each teaching different things, there are
many different versions of the Bible." This view, however, is wrong. Yes there are many
denominations, but don't blame that on the fact there are many versions of the Bible. There is one
First we need to understand what we mean by a "version". A better word than "version" is
"translation". The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. If
every man could read Hebrew and Greek, then we would have no need for an "English version". Most
people can't read Greek, "It's all Greek to me"! We must rely, therefore, upon men who are fully fluent
in English and Greek. These "scholars" read the original Greek Bible and come up with an English
equivalent. This process is called translation. We have all seen a foreign diplomat give a news
conference through the help of a translator. One translator may choose different words or sentences, but
the message is identical. Translation is a reliable science of communicating between different
languages. Remember, it was God Himself who created all the language barriers in Genesis 11 at the
Tower of Babel. God is satisfied that His inspired word can be maintained although translated into over
Translation of the Greek New Testament is a very precise science. The New American Standard
Bible, for example, was translated over 10 years, by over 45 scholars and was first published in 1962
AD. Similar painstaking work was applied to the production of the New International (1978 AD), and
King James (1611AD) and the New King James (1982AD). These translations and others like them
were the products of many years of work from scholars from many denominations.
Each translation has its own strengths and weaknesses. The King James Version (KJV) is
excellent, but you must use a dictionary as you read because it uses language typical of the time it was
translated (1611). The New American Standard Version (NASV) is believed by many to be one of the
most accurate translations and is an excellent study Bible. The American Standard Version (ASV) is
also excellent and highly accurate. The New King James Version (NKJV) is high on the recommended
list. The New International Version (NIV) tries to make the text as easy to understand as possible and is
an excellent reading Bible, but not a good study Bible. The New World Translation (1950, the Jehovah's
Witnesses Bible) should be avoided because it is actually corrupt, being a sectarian paraphrase rather
than a true translation of the Holy Scriptures.
Although the exact choice of words or sentence structure is different in each translation, the
meaning is identical. Take the words of Jesus in Mark 16:16 from three "versions" as an example; NIV:
"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved". KJV: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be
saved". NAS: "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved" Different words and
sentences but the meaning is identical. To blame religious division on the fact there are different Bible
versions, therefore, is incorrect. The view that each translation of the Bible conveys a different message
is also incorrect. There is only one Bible message that has been translated into hundreds of different
"IS THE BIBLE ACCURATE?"
In conversations with people at school, Wal-Mart, and everywhere else the topic comes up, statements
are made as well as the question asked: "The Bible was taken from hand written copies, much of which
are only fragments. How can we trust that what we have is accurate?"
Because there are over 24,000 manuscript copies of the New Testament we can absolutely be confident
of its accuracy. With this large number of manuscripts, comparing manuscripts easily reveals any place
where a scribe has made an error or where there is a variation. There are approximately 150,000
variations in the manuscripts we have today. However, these variations represent only 10,000 places in
the New Testament (if the same word was misspelled in 3,000 manuscripts, that is counted as 3,000
variations.) Of these 10,000 places, all but 400 are questions of spelling in accord with accepted usage,
grammatical construction, or order of words. Of the remaining variations, only 50 are of significance
(such as two manuscripts leaving out Acts 2:37). But of these 50, Not One alters even one article of
faith which cannot be abundantly sustained by other undoubted passages.
There are some manuscript copies that date very close to the completion of the New Testament. These
manuscripts are nearly identical to those dating 900 years later, thus verifying the accuracy of the
Besides this, Jesus promised that His words would not pass away. (Mat 24:35) "Heaven and earth shall
pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
None of these “errors” affect the message of the Bible. To illustrate, note the following telegrams, one
that is received one day and the other the next.
1) “Y#U HAVE WON TEN MILLION DOLLARS.”
2) “YO# HAVE WON TEN MILLION DOLLARS.”
Even if we received only the first telegram we know what the exact message is in spite of the error.
And if we received twenty telegrams, each one having a similar mistake in a different place, we would
say that the message is beyond all reasonable doubt. Now it is noteworthy that the New Testament
manuscripts have a much smaller percentage of significant copyist errors than this telegram. Further,
with some thousands manuscripts (compared to a few telegrams), the real message of the New
Testament is no more affected than is the message of the telegram.
By comparison with the New Testament, most other books from the ancient world are not nearly so
well authenticated. The well-known New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger estimated that Homer’s
Iliad is copied with only about 95 percent accuracy. By comparison, he estimated the New Testament
is about 99.5 percent accurate. So the New Testament text can be reconstructed with over 99 percent
accuracy. And, what is more, 100 percent of the message of the New Testament has been preserved in
Islamic scholars recognize the textual scholar Sir Frederic Kenyon as an authority on the subject. Yusuf
Ali, the great Muslim scholar and translator of the Qur’an, cites Kenyon several times as a recognized
authority on ancient manuscripts. Yet Kenyon concluded that:
“The number of manuscripts of the New Testament, of early translations from
it, and of quotations from it in the oldest writers of the Church, is so large that it is
practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some
one or other of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in
1]: Frederic Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts , 4th ed. (New York: Harper, 1958), 55.
Ancient Manuscripts Verify Accuracy:
Until this century, the earliest Old Testament copies were from about A.D. 1000 (similar to typical
historical works). Skeptics argued textual corruption was possible. Others argued miracles of
prophecy—especially concerning Jesus—were recorded centuries after Christ and were changed to fit
the outcome of history. Modern archaeological discoveries soundly refute such claims. Thousands of
much earlier documents now verify biblical accuracy.
Not surprisingly, critics of the Bible, especially those knowledgeable of the prophecy miracles,
suggest that the Bible was changed, altered, and somehow mishandled. Commonly, people claim the
Bible was in the control of the Roman Catholic Church, which supposedly had “opportunity and
motive” to change Scripture to meet its purpose. Such critics miss some key facts. There are two
indisputable sets of records that mankind has in its possession today that were not historically
controlled by the Christian church and verify the authenticity of the message contained in the words of
the Bible we read today: The Septuagint and The Dead Sea Scrolls.
Reliability: Understanding the reliable transmission of the Bible requires breaking out of the
twentieth-century mindset. Today we often regard other documents far above religious writings.
Role: Holy Scripture was of extreme importance to the early Hebrews. The theocracy of Israel (ruled
by God) looked to Scripture for its laws, its spiritual guidance, and its hope for the future. Even though
the nation was often disobedient, Holy Scripture was always held in high esteem.
Reverence of Scripture:
• The name of God—Fearing “use of God’s name in vain,” scribes altered its spelling by
removing vowels. Every time God’s name was written, a “sanctification verse” was spoken by
• Insistence on precision—The all-important “master scrolls” (from which copies were made)
were cross-checked in many ways (see below).
• Ceremonial burial—The sacred books were so highly valued that when they eventually wore
out, they were given a ceremonial burial. Some of these buried copies have been found.
The importance of holy Scripture in the culture made it virtually impossible to deliberately insert
inaccuracies. All scrolls would have had to be changed simultaneously—along with countless
memories—just to make one single change.
Scriptural Copy Rules:
Stringent rules concerning materials used, technique, and format were followed. Scribes (the word
literally means “counters”) verified precision by these methods:
Master used—no duplicates of duplicates.
• Scrolls—special paper, ink, and surface preparation required.
• Tight specifications—specified column number, 37 letters per column.
• Each letter visually confirmed—no writing of phrases.
• Total letters in a scroll were counted.
• Alphabet—each letter counted and compared to original.
• Each individual letter was counted, distance checked with thread.
• Letters per page counted and compared to master.
• Words were counted and totaled per scroll.
• The middle letter of each scroll was found (by counting) and verified against the master.
• If there was a single mistake, the entire “replacement” master scroll was destroyed.
Background: To fully appreciate the miraculous survival of ancient biblical documents, we must
realize how easily words written on ancient materials deteriorated and were lost forever. Consider your
family’s most cherished documents—birth certificates, marriage licenses, key contracts. How many
still exist? While modern paper and storage far surpass the technology of ancient times, we still lose
most documents. In ancient times materials were much more fragile and storage conditions much
worse. Problems included:
• Fragile materials (papyrus, parchment)
• Poor storage (weather)
• Time (loss of documents)
• Intentional destruction
• Fear of copying
The Explosion of the Gospel:
There were no printing presses, no photocopiers, no quick ways to copy manuscripts. Nevertheless, the
Gospel quickly expanded throughout the Roman Empire. Comprehending the scale of this vast
explosion of hand-copied documents is only possible by comparing the number of extant New
Testament manuscripts with those of other abundant documents.
Existing copies of ancient work
Notice the Bible is the most reliable ancient document in the world based on these criteria!
TIME SPAN in years
from original writing to
oldest available copy
Pliny the younger
What Does This Mean?
Having more surviving early manuscripts means having more cross-checks to verify accuracy. Today’s
Bible is verified to a textual accuracy of 99.5 percent, compared with 95 percent for the best other
ancient work (The Iliad).
Some biblical copies are old enough to show eyewitnesses’ confirmation (made within 25 years of
They were Prominent, Influential Christian teachers and scholars from the late-first century
through the eighth century. The term church fathers includes four groups:
Apostolic Fathers: A small number of Early Christian authors who lived and wrote in the
second half of the 1st century and the first half of the 2nd century. They are acknowledged as
leaders in the early church, although their writings were not included in the New Testament.
They include St. Clement of Rome, St. Ignatius of Antioch, and St. Polycarp of Smyrna and
The label "Apostolic Fathers" has been applied to them since the 17th century to indicate that
they were of the generation that had personal contact with the Twelve Apostles. Thus they
provide a link between the Apostles who knew Jesus of Nazareth and the later generation of
Church Fathers: Christian apologists, defenders of orthodoxy, and developers of doctrine.
The "Apostolic Fathers" represent a tradition of early Christianity shared by many different
churches across cultural, ethnic, and linguistic differences. The tradition they represent holds
the Jewish Scriptures to be inspired by God and holds that the Jewish prophets point to the
actual flesh and blood of Jesus through which both Jew and Gentile are saved. Furthermore,
they present the picture of an organized Church made up of many different cross-cultural, sister
churches sharing one apostolic tradition. Their ecclesiology, adoption of some Judaic values,
and emphasis upon the historical nature of Jesus Christ stand in stark contrast to the various
ideologies of more paganized Christianities (e.g. Gnosticism).
Greek Fathers: Leading Christian scholars whose native language was Greek and who wrote
between the second and the eighth centuries: e.g., Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria,
and Athanasius of Alexandria.
Latin Fathers: Western Christian figures who wrote primarily in Latin; among them are
Tertullian of Carthage, Augustine of Hippo, and Jerome.
Desert Fathers: Christian leaders who wrote very little but had widespread influence. The
greatest were Anthony and Pachomius.
The church fathers’ era ended in the late-eighth century with John of Damascus.
Canonical books the church fathers referred to in their own writings.
Giving proof to their early authorship and acceptance in the Church.
1. Geisler, Norman and William Nix. General Introduction to the Bible, 1986
2. Metzger, Bruce Manning. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance. Oxford:
3. Westcott, B.F. A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, 1855
Very few written works of anything in history exist from the period of A.D. 30 to 60. All works from
A.D. 50-60 are said to fit in bookends only a foot apart. Nero’s killing of Christians in A.D. 64 led to
non-Christians writing about Jesus.
Thallus (circa A.D. 52)---Historical work referenced by Julius Africanus. Explains the darkness at the
time of Christ’s death as a solar eclipse. While an eclipse did not occur in that period (pointed out by
Julius Africanus), reference to Jesus’ death was stated as a matter of fact.
Josephus (circa A.D. 64-93)---This Jewish historian referenced Jesus, His miracles, His crucifixion,
and His disciples. Also referenced are James, “brother of Jesus who was called the Christ,” and John
Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 64-116)---Writing to dispel rumors that Nero caused the great fire of Rome in
A.D. 64, he refers to Christians as the followers of “Christus,” who “had undergone the death penalty
in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus.” The resurrection was called
“the pernicious superstition.”
Pliny the Younger (circa A.D. 112)---As governor of Bithynia (Asia Minor), he requested guidance
from Rome regarding the proper test to give Christians before executing them. (If they renounced the
faith, cursed Jesus, and worshiped the statue of Emperor Trajan, they were set free.)
Hadrian (circa A.D. 117-138)---In response to questions regarding the punishment of Christians who
drew people away from pagan gods which affected the sale of idols, Hadrian said that they be
“examined” regarding their faith (similar to the response to Pliny the Younger).
Suetonius (circa A.D. 120)---A historian who wrote about events in the late 40s-60s A.D. that identify
Christ, the “mischievous and novel superstition” of the resurrection, and the fact of Christians being put
to death by Nero.
Phlegon (circa A.D. 140)---Referenced by Julius Africanus and Origen—referred to “eclipse,”
earthquake, and Jesus’ prophecies.
Lucian of Samosata (circa A.D. 170)---Greek satirist Lucian wrote about Christians, Christ, the
crucifixion, Christian martyrs, and “novel beliefs.”
Mara Bar-Serapion (circa A.D. 70+)---A Syrian philosopher wrote from prison to his son comparing
Jesus to Socrates and Plato.
Writings from Jewish Rabbis: Several passages from the Talmud and other Jewish writings clearly
refer to Jesus Christ.
“Hanging” (on a cross) of Jesus on the eve of Passover [written: circa A.D. 40-180].
Identifying Jesus and the names of 5 disciples.
Healing in the name of Jesus.
Scoffing at the “claim” of a virgin birth, and implying “illegitimacy.”
Classical scholar and historian Colin Hemer chronicles Luke’s accuracy in the book of Acts verse by
verse. With painstaking detail, Hemer identifies 84 facts in the last 16 chapters of Acts alone that have
been confirmed by historical and archaeological research.
The Book of Acts includes the most eyewitness details. Luke accurately records:
1. the natural crossing between correctly named ports (acts 13:4-5)
2. the proper ports (Perga) along the direct destination of a ship crossing from Cyprus (13:13)
3. the proper location of Lycaonia (14:6)
4. the unusual but correct declension of the name Lystra (14:6)
5. the correct language spoken in Lystra—Lycaonian (14:11)
6. two gods known to be so associated—Zeus and Hermes (14:12)
7. the proper port, Attalia, which returning travelers would use (14:25)
8. the correct order of approach to Derbe and then Lystra from the Cilician Gates (16:1;cf. 15:41)
9. the proper form of the name Troas (16:8)
10. the place of a conspicuous sailor's landmark, Samothrace (16:11)
11. the proper description of Philippi as a Roman colony (16:12)
12. the right location for the river (Gangites) near Philippi (16:13)
13. the proper association of Thyatira as a center of dyeing (16:14)
14. correct designation for the magistrates of the colony (16:22)
15. the proper locations (Amphipolis and Apollonia) where travelers would spend successive nights
on this journey (17:1)
16. the presence of a synagogue in Thessalonica (17:1)
17. the proper term (“politarchs”) used of the magistrates there (17:6)
18. the correct implication that sea travel is the most convenient wat of reaching Athens, with the
favoring east winds of summer sailing (17:14-15)
19. the abundant presence of images in Athens (17:16)
20. the reference to a synagogue in Athens (17:17)
21. the depiction of the Athenian life of philosophical debate in the Agora (17:17)
22. the use of the correct Athenian slang word for Paul (spermologos, 17:18) as well as for the court
(Areios Pagos, 17:19)
23. the proper characterization of the Athenian character (17:21)
24. an alter to an “unkown god” (17:23)
25. the proper reaction of Greek philosophers, who denied the bodily resurrection (17:32)
26. Areopagites as the correct title for a member of the court (17:34)
27. a Corinthian synagogue (18:4)
28. the correct designation of Gallio as proconsul, resident in Corinth (18:12)
29. the bema (judgment seat), which overlooks Corinth’s forum (18:16)
30. the name Tyrannus as attested from Ephesus in first-century inscriptions (19:9)
31. well-known shrines and images of Artemis (19:24)
32. the well-attested “great goddess Artemis” (19:27)
33. that the Ephesian theater was the meeting place of the city (19:29)
34. the correct title grammateus for the chief executive magistrate in Ephesus (19:35)
35. the proper title of honor neokoros, authorized by the Romans (19:35)
36. the correct name to designate the goddess (19:37)
37. the proper term for those holding court (19:38)
38. use of plural anthupatoi, perhaps a remarkable reference to the fact that two men were
conjointly exercising the functions of proconsul at this time (19:38)
39. the “regular” assembly, as the precise phrase is attested elsewhere (19:39)
40. use of precise ethnic designation, beroiaios (20:4)
41. employment of the ethnic term Asianos (20:4)
42. the implied recognition of the strategic importance assigned to this city of Troas (20:7)
43. the danger of the coastal trip in this location (20:13)
44. the correct sequence of places (20:14-15)
45. the correct name of the city as a neuter plural (Patara) (21:1)
46. the appropriate route passing across the open sea south of Cyprus favored by persistent
northwest winds (21:3)
47. the suitable distance between these cities (21:8)
48. a characteristically Jewish act of piety (21:24)
49. the Jewish law regarding Gentile use of the temple area (21:28) (Archaeological discoveries and
quotations from Josephus confirm that Gentiles could be executed for entering the temple area.
One inscription reads: “Let no Gentile enter within the balustrade and enclosure surrounding the
sanctuary. Whoever is caught will be personally responsible for his consequent death.”)
50. the permanent stationing of a Roman cohort (chiliarch) at Antonia to suppress any disturbance
at festival times (21:31)
51. the flight of steps used by the guards (21:31, 35)
52. the common way to obtain Roman citizenship at this time (22:28)
53. the tribune being impressed with Roman rather than Tarsian citizenship (22:29)
54. Ananias being high priest at this time (23:2)
55. Felix being governor at this time (23:34)
56. the natural stopping point on the way to Caesarea (23:31)
57. whose jurisdiction Cilicia was in at the time (23:34)
58. the provincial penal procedure of the time (24:1-9)
59. the name Porcius Festus, which agrees precisely with that given by Josephus (24:27)
60. the right of appeal for Roman citizens (25:11)
61. the correct legal formula (25:18)
62. the characteristic form of reference to the emperor at the time (25:26)
63. the best shipping lanes at the time (27:5)
64. the common bonding of Cilicia and Pamphylia (27:4)
65. the principal port to find a ship sailing to Italy (27:5-6)
66. the slow passage to Cnidus, in the face of the typical northwest wind (27:7)
67. the right route to sail, in view of the winds (27:7)
68. the locations of Fair Havens and the neighboring site of Lasea (27:13)
69. Fair Havens as a poorly sheltered roadstead (27:12)
70. a noted tendency of a south wind in these climes to back suddenly to a violent northeaster, the
well-known gregale (27:13)
71. the nature of a square-rigged ancient ship, having no option but to be driven before a gale
72. the precise place and name of this island (27:16)
73. the appropriate maneuvers for the safety of the ship in its particular plight (27:16)
74. the fourteenth night—a remarkable calculation, based inevitably on a compounding of estimates
and probabilities, confirmed in the judgment of experienced Mediterranean navigators (27:27)
75. the proper term of the time for the Adriatic (27:27)
76. the precise term (Bolisantes) for taking soundings, and the correct depth of the water near Malta
77. a position that suits the probable line of approach of a ship released to run before an easterly
78. the severe liability on guards who permitted a prisoner to escape (27:42)
79. the local people and superstitions of the day (28:4-6)
80. the proper title protos tes nesou (28:7)
81. Rhegium as a refuge to await a southerly wind to carry them through the strait (28:13)
82. Appii Forum and Tres Tabernae as correctly placed stopping places on the Appian Way (28:15)
83. appropriate means of custody with Roman soldiers (28:16)
84. the conditions of imprisonment, living “at his own expense” (28:30-31)
There is no doubt that Luke was an eyewitness to these events or at least had access to reliable
eyewitness testimony. Indeed, Luke’s accuracy in Acts is truly amazing.
Now, here’s where skeptics get very uncomfortable. Luke reports a total of 35 miracles in the same
book in which he records all 84 of these historically confirmed details. And the miracle accounts show
no signs of embellishment or extravagance—they are told with the same levelheaded efficiency as the
rest of the historical narrative.
In light of the fact that Luke has been proven accurate with so many trivial details, it is nothing but
pure anti-supernatural bias to say he’s not telling the truth about the miracles he recorded. Such a bias
is illegitimate and a Fallacy. It makes much more sense to believe Luke’s miracle accounts than to
discount them. Luke’s credentials as a historian have been proven on so many points that it takes more
faith not to believe his miracle accounts than to believe them.
What about the Gospel of Luke, should we expect the same degree of accuracy from Luke’s Gospel?
Why not? In fact, Luke says as much when he writes, “Since I myself have carefully investigated
everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to write an orderly account for you, most excellent
Theophilus” (Luke 1:3). Judging from his meticulous work in Acts, Luke certainly is a carful historian
who should be trusted.
There are several details in Luke’s Gospel that have been verified independently. For example, Luke
names eleven historically confirmed leaders in the first three chapters of his Gospel alone. These
include Herod the Great (1:5), Caesar Augustus (2:1), and Quirinius (2:2). He then writes this at the
beginning of chapter 3:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar--when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod
tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene-during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the
desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the
forgiveness of sins.
Indeed, all eleven of the historical figures Luke names in the first three chapters of his Gospel—
including John the Baptist—have been confirmed by non-Christian writers and/or archaeology. The
bottom line is that Luke can be trusted. Since he has been confirmed independently on so many
testable points (95 proven points/ 0 inaccuracies), there’s every reason to believe he’s telling the truth
Now here’s the crucial point: Since Luke is telling the truth, then so are Mark and Matthew because
their Gospels tell the same basic story. This is devastating to skeptics, but the logic is inescapable. You
need a lot more faith to ignore it.
Like the work Colin Hemer did on Acts, Craig Blomberg has done a detailed study of the Gospel of
John. Blomberg examines John’s Gospel verse by verse and identifies numerous historical details.
Since John describes events confined to the Holy Land, his Gospel doesn’t contain quite as many
geographical, topographical, and political items as does Acts. Nevertheless, quite an impressive
number of historically confirmed or historically probable details are contained in John’s Gospel. Many
of these details have been confirmed to be historical by archaeology and/or non-Christian writings, and
some of them are historically probable because they would be unlikely inventions of a Christian writer.
These details begin in John’s second chapter and include the following:
1. Archaeology confirms the use of stone water jars in New Testament times (John 2:6)
2. Given the early Christian tendency towards asceticism, the wine miracle is an unlikely
3. Archaeology confirms the proper place of Jacob’s Well (4:6)
4. Josephus (Wars of the Jews 2.232) confirms there was significant hostility between Jews and
Samaritans during Jesus’ time (4:9)
5. “Come down” accurately describes the topography of western Galilee. (There’s a significant
elevation drop from Cana to Capernaum.)
6. “Went up” accurately describes the ascent to Jerusalem (5:1)
7. Archaeology confirms the proper location and description of the five colonnades at the pool of
Bethesda (5:2). (Excavations between 1914 and 1938 uncovered that pool and found it to be
just as John described it. Since that structure did not exist after the Romans destroyed the city
in A.D. 70, it’s unlikely any later non-eyewitness could have described it in such vivid detail.
Moreover, John says that this structure “is in Jerusalem,” implying that he’s writing before 70.)
8. Jesus’ own testimony being invalid without the Father is an unlikely Christian invention (5:31);
a later redactor would be eager to highlight Jesus’ divinity and would probably make his
9. The crowds wanting to make Jesus king reflects the well-known nationalist fervor of early firstcentury Israel (6:15)
10. Sudden and severe squalls are common on the Sea of Galilee (6:18)
11. Christ’s command to (symbolically) eat his flesh and drink his blood would not be made up
12. The rejection of Jesus by many of his disciples is also an unlikely invention (6:66)
13. The two predominant opinions of Jesus, one that Jesus was a “good man” and the other that he
“deceives people,” would not be the two choices John would have made up (7:12); a later
Christian writer would have probably inserted the opinion that Jesus was God.
14. The charge of Jesus being demon-possessed is an unlikely invention (7:20)
15. The use of “Samaritan” to slander Jesus befits the hostility between Jews and Samaritans 98:48)
16. Jewish believers wanting to stone Jesus is an unlikely invention (8:31, 59)
17. Archaeology confirms the existence and location of the Pool of Siloam (9:70
18. Expulsion from the synagogue by the Pharisees was a legitimate fear of the Jews; notice that the
healed man professes his faith in Jesus only after he is expelled from the synagogue by the
Pharisees (9:13-39), at which point he had nothing to lose. This rings of authenticity.
19. The healed man calling Jesus a “prophet” rather than anything more lofty suggests the incident
is unembellished history (9:17)
20. During a winter feast, Jesus walked in Solomon’s Colonnade, which was the only side of the
temple area shielded from the cold winter east wind (10:22-23)
21. Fifteen stadia (less than two miles0 is precisely the distance from Bethany to Jerusalem (11:18)
22. Given the later animosity between Christians and Jews, the positive depiction of Jews
comforting Martha and Mary is an unlikely invention (11:19)
23. The burial wrappings of Lazarus were common for first-century Jewish burials (11:440; it is
unlikely that a fiction writer would have included this theologically irrelevant detail.
24. The precise description of the composition of the Sanhedrin (11:47): it was composed primarily
of chief priests (largely Sadducees) and Pharisees during Jesus’ ministry.
25. Caiaphas was indeed the high priest that year (11:49); we learn from Josephus that Caiaphas
held the office from A.D. 18-37.
26. The obscure and tiny village of Ephraim (11:54) near Jerusalem is mentioned by Josephus.
27. Ceremonial cleansing was common in preparation for the Passover (11:55)
28. Anointing of a guest’s feet with perfume or oil was sometimes performed for special guests in
the Jewish culture (12:30); Mary’s wiping of Jesus’ feet with her hair is an unlikely invention (it
easily could have been perceived as a sexual advance).
29. Waving of palm branches was a common Jewish practice for celebrating military victories and
welcoming national rulers (12:13)
30. Foot washing in first-century Palestine was necessary because of dust and open footwear; Jesus
performing this menial task is an unlikely invention (it was a task not even Jewish slaves were
required to do) (13:4); Peter’s insistence that he get a complete bath also fits with his impulsive
personality (there’s certainly no purpose for inventing this request).
31. Peter asks John to ask Jesus a question (13:24); there’s no reason to insert this detail if this is
fiction; Peter could have asked Jesus himself.
32. “The Father is greater than I” is an unlikely invention (14:28), especially if John wanted to
make up the deity of Christ.
33. Use of the vine as a metaphor makes good sense in Jerusalem (15:1); vineyards were in the
vicinity of the temple, and, according to Josephus, the temple gates had a golden vine carved on
34. Use of the childbirth metaphor (16:21) is thoroughly Jewish; it has been found in the Dead Sea
Scrolls (1QH 11:9-10).
35. The standard Jewish posture for prayers was looking “toward heaven” (17:1)
36. Jesus’ admission that he has gotten his words from the Father (17:7-8) would not be included if
John were inventing the idea that Christ was God.
37. No specific reference to fulfilled Scripture is given regarding the predicted betrayal by Judas; a
fiction writer or later Christian redactor probably would have identified the Old Testament
Scripture to which Jesus was referring (17:12)
38. The name of the high priest’s servant (Malchus), who had his ear cut off, is an unlikely
39. Proper identification of Caiaphas’s father-in-law, Annas who was the high priest from A.D. 6-15
(18:13)—the appearance before Annas is believable because of the family connection and the
fact that former high priests maintained great influence.
40. John’s claim that the high priest knew him (18:15) seems historical; invention of this claim
serves no purpose and would expose John to being discredited by Jewish authorities.
41. Annas’s questions regarding Jesus’ teachings and disciples make good historical sense; Annas
would be concerned about potential civil unrest and the undermining of Jewish religious
42. Identification of a relative of Malchus (the high priest’s servant who had his ear cut off) is a
detail that John would not have made up (18:26); it has no theological significance and could
only hurt John’s credibility if he were trying to pass of fiction as the truth.
43. There are good historical reasons to believe Pilate’s reluctance to deal with Jesus 918:280:
Pilate had to walk a fine line between keeping the Jews happy and keeping Rome happy; any
civil unrest could mean his job (the Jews knew of his competing concerns when they taunted
him with, “if you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar,” 19:12): the Jewish philosopher
Philo records the Jews successfully pressuring Pilate in a similar way to get their demands met
(To Gaius 38.301-302).
44. A surface similar to the Stone Pavement has been identified near the Antonia Fortress (19:13)
with markings that may indicate soldiers played games there (as in the gambling for his clothes
45. The Jews exclaiming “We have no king but Caesar!” (19:15) would not be invented given the
Jewish hatred for the Romans, especially if John had been written after A.D. 70. (this would be
like New Yorkers today proclaiming “We have no king but Osama Bin Laden!”)
46. The crucifixion of Jesus (19:17-30) is attested to by non-Christian sources such as Josephus,
Tacitus, Lucian, and the Jewish Talmud.
47. Crucifixion victims normally carried their own crossbeams (19:17).
48. Josephus confirms that crucifixion was an execution technique employed by the Romans (Wars
of the Jews 1.97; 2.305; 7.203); moreover, a nail-spiked anklebone of a crucified man was
found in Jerusalem in 1968
49. The execution site was likely outside ancient Jerusalem, as John says (19:17); this would ensure
that the sacred Jewish city would not be profaned by the presence of a dead body (Deut. 21:23)
50. After the spear was thrust into Jesus’ side, out came what appeared to be blood and water
(19:34). Today we know that a crucified person might have a watery fluid gather in the sac
around the heart called the pericardium. John would not have known of this medical condition,
and could not have recorded this phenomenon unless he was an eyewitness or had access to
51. Joseph of Arimathea (19:38), a member of the Sanhedrin who buries Jesus, is an unlikely
52. Josephus (Antiquities 17.199) confirms that spices (19:39) were used for royal burials; this
detail shows that Nicodemus was not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead, and it also
demonstrates that John was not inserting later-Christian faith into the text.
53. Mary Magdalene (20:1), a formerly demon-possessed woman (Luke 8:2), would not be invented
as the empty tomb’s first witness; in fact, women in general would not be presented as
witnesses in a made up story, women had no credibility in ancient times.
54. Mary mistaking Jesus for a gardener (20:15) is not a detail that a later writer would have made
up (especially a writer seeking to exalt Jesus.)
55. “Rabboni” (20:16), the Aramaic for “teacher,” seems an authentic detail because it’s another
unlikely invention for a writer trying to exalt the risen Jesus.
56. Jesus stating that he is returning to “my God and your God” (20:17) does not fit with a later
writer bent on creating the idea that Jesus was God.
57. One hundred fifty-three fish (21:11) is a theologically irrelevant detail, but perfectly consistent
with the tendency of fisherman to want to record and then brag about large catches.
58. The fear of the disciples to ask Jesus who he was (21:120 is an unlikely concoction; it
demonstrates natural human amazement at the risen Jesus and perhaps the fact that there was
something different about the resurrection body.
59. The cryptic statement from Jesus about the fate of Peter is not clear enough to draw certain
theological conclusions 921:18); so why would John make it up? It’s another unlikely invention.
When we couple John’s knowledge of Jesus’ personal conversations with these nearly sixty
historically confirmed/historically probable details, is there any doubt that John was an eyewitness or at
least had access to eyewitness testimony? It certainly seems that it takes a lot more faith not to believe
John’s Gospel than to believe it.
Let’s review what we’ve found so far. By looking at just a few New Testament documents (John,
Luke and half of Acts), we have found more than 140 details that appear to be authentic, most of which
have been historically confirmed and some of which are historically probably. If we investigated the
other New Testament documents, we would probably find many more historical facts. But what we
have found just from John, Luke and Acts is certainly enough to establish the historicity of the basic
New Testament story (the life of Jesus and the early history of the church).
The New Testament writers put historical crosshairs into their accounts by referencing real
historical figures and their doings. All in all, There are at least thirty characters in the New Testament
who have been confirmed as historical by archaeology or non-Christian sources.
New Testament Figures Cited by Non-Christian Writers
and/or Confirmed Through Archaeology
Bernice (wife of Agrippa II)
Drusilla (wife of Felix)
Egyptian false prophet
Acts 23:2; 24:1
Luke 3:2; John 18:13, 24; Acts 4:6
2 Cor. 11:32
Acts 11:28; 18:2
Acts 5:34; 22:3
Matt. 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 3:1;
Matt. 2:1-19; Luke 1:5
Matt. 14:3; Mark 6:17
Matt. 14:3; Mark 6:17
Matt. 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29
Herod the Great
Herod Philip I
Herod Philip II
Herodias’s daughter (Salome)
John the Baptist
Judas the Galilean
Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger,
Phlegon, Thallus, Suetonius, Lucian,
Celsus, Mara Bar-Serapion, The Jewish
Josephus and others
Inscription, coins, Josephus, Philo, Tacitus
Tacitus, Suetonius, Paterculus, Dio Cassius,
*Note: This is not an exhaustive compilation of non-Christian references. There may be additional citations of these New Testament
figures in these and/or other non-Christian sources.
The evidence supporting the historicity of the New Testament is so overwhelming that many great
skeptical thinkers, historians and archaeologists have found no choice but to accept Christianity.
• William Albright—As a young man, Albright regarded the Bible as simply a book of literature
not based on historical fact. He intended to use archaeology to define how such “literature” fit
within the cultural framework of the time. During his field studies in the 1930s (which
continued until his death in 1971), Albright found conclusive evidence that caused him to
reverse his previous position. He proclaimed that the Bible was, in fact, totally consistent with
• William Ramsay—Ramsay set out to disprove the Gospel of Luke in the late nineteenth
century. After 30 years of in-depth archaeology in Asia Minor and the Middle East, Ramsay’s
conclusions were the opposite of his initial premise. The academic world was shocked.
Expecting historical proof against the Bible, instead it was presented with strong confirmation
of biblical accuracy. Ramsay called Luke one of the greatest historians ever—and he converted
to Christianity based on his research.
• Simon Greenleaf—One of the principle founders of the Harvard Law School, originally set out
to disprove the biblical testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was certain
that a careful examination of the internal witness of the Gospels would dispel all the myths at
the heart of Christianity. But this legal scholar came to the conclusion that the witnesses were
reliable, and that the resurrection did in fact happen. He is distinguished as one who applied the
canons of the ancient document rule to establish the authenticity of the gospel accounts, as well
as cross-examination principles in assessing the testimony of those who bore witness to the
crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Prophecy Fulfilled In History
11. Jerusalem’s Enlargement
McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian
Faith Vol. 1, (1972). pp. 277-335.
The purpose of this section, fulfilled historic and geographic prophecies, is mainly to illustrate
the power of God through fulfillments of seemingly impossible predictions directly grounded in the
course of human events.
Rarely does a researcher have the opportunity to investigate such a fascinating line of study.
Clearly God’s hand is on the shoulder of these prophets as they present the Word to those who would
hear. Prophecy gives clear practical lessons in the omniscience and omnipotence of the God of us all,
as well as food for thought in areas like inspiration of Scripture, etc.
The prophecies in this section have been divided into twelve areas of prophecy. Each area
involves a specific prophetic theme (i.e., certain towns, cities, nations, etc.).
Definition of Prophecy:
The Encyclopedia Britannica says: “The literary records of Hebrew prophecy in Isaiah make
clear that Prophecy means in the first instance and primarily a word or spoken message, proclaiming
through a chosen messenger the will of God for those addressed. The predictive element of threat or
promise is conditioned by the hearers’ response (i, 18-20), or is offered as a ‘sign’ of what is coming
(vii, 14), because all that happens is finally subordinate to the purpose of God’s will.” 13/xii. 656, 657
Encyclopedia Britannica continues that “Isaiah makes much of the importance of Babylon’s
gods, in contrast to Yahweh, to declare in advance what they intend to do and to do it (xii, 21-24; xlviii,
3). The predictions of the prophets are announcements of the purpose of a living God rather than of
man’s predetermined fate.” 13/xii. 656, 657
The definition of “prophet” is someone who tells God’s will and the future to the people as
divine inspiration leads. 48/890
Merril F. Unger in Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, 1966, says that “In addition to the
declaration of God’s will, the denunciation of his judgments, the defense of truth and righteousness,
and bearing testimony to the superiority of the moral to the ritual, prophecy had an intimate relation to
God’s gracious purpose toward Israel” (Mic. 5:4, 7:20; Isa. 60:3; 65:25). 48/891
The prophets’ purpose, in addition to prediction, was moral, which, according to Charles Elliot,
Old Testament Prophecy, p. 44, reveals the existence of God as He really is and shows that He works
“according to the purpose of His will.” This, in short, reveals God to man, and with that revelation,
God’s will and workings. 48/892
All writers, prophets included, have a distinctive style of writing, just as they have a style of
speaking and presenting themselves. Each person maintains individuality, therefore, through his own
style, yet in certain ways these men are set apart from non-biblical writers. Although their
individualities remain, time and sense seem to fade as the Spirit completes control. 48/893
The impression most people have of a prophet is that he is a person who presents predictive
prophecy. True, this is a large part of the prophet’s message, but the great prophets were active
reformers in social and political areas, yet constantly preaching righteousness and revival, as well as
predicting judgments and rewards. The prophet always spoke in a spiritual manner, reflecting God’s
will and urging obedience. 48/893
Although it sometimes arose (cf. Deut. 18:22), the predictive part of the message was not for
sensationalism. The prophecies were pronounced because of (not in spite of) the conditions
surrounding the prophet. Virtually every chapter pronouncing doom will have a chapter explaining
precisely why the message of destruction was uttered. 48/863
The first prophecy goes all the way back to Adam and Eve with the predicted and promised
Divine Redeemer of Genesis 3:15, 16. From there, we can, and will, trace the speaking of God’s words
all the way to Revelation. Some of the early prophets were Enoch, Abraham and Moses (Num. 12:6-8,
Deut. 18:18, John 6:14; 7:40). 48/893
Also, prophecy was of “divine origin” as I Samuel 9:9 and II Samuel 24:11 show. 48/893
The Bible is very clear that predictive prophecy is a sign of God’s power and glory and presents
the supernatural nature of His word. It is not only a demonstration of God’s power, but also of His
answer to man’s prayers and needs. Since God reveals the future, a task no man is so capable of doing,
we can know that He sees the future and sees all things even before they reach the present. Christians
everywhere should rest assured that nothing will occur which the Father has not foreseen. 48/894
Tests of a Prophet:
According to the New Bible Dictionary (Ed. J. D. Douglas, used by permission of Wm. B.
Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962) article, “Prophecy, Prophets” (p. 1041-1042) by J. A. Motyer, viceprincipal of Clifton Theological College in Bristol, certain points may be made about the question of
true and false prophets.
There have been many episodes in the Bible which have caused conflict as to who was a true
prophet and who was a false prophet (I Kings xxii; Jer. Xxviii; I Ki. Xiii, 18-22). The solution to this
is very practical and important rather than simply academic. We have certain characteristics which we
can examine and apply to see the falseness or truth in a prophet. 40/1041
One area to examine for false prophets is in what Prof. Motyer called “prophet ecstasy.” This
state of ecstasy seemed to occur without forewarning or was caused by certain conditions, especially
certain forms of music. Such unusual and suspicious conditions arose as total expulsion of all selfconsciousness, and no sensitivity or fear of pain was evident. This was wide-spread in Canaan,
especially with Baalism. Naturally this is not the only grounds for passing an unfavorable conclusion.
One must also realize that this quality was not wholly divorced from the true prophets. Both Isaiah (in
his temple experience) and Ezekiel (roughly overall) were ecstatic at times. 40/1041
Another observation to make is in the area of status. The false prophets were usually on a paid
staff under the King. These men “prophesied” what the king desired to hear. This again is not a final
test. Samuel, Nathan (under Daniel) and even Amos were considered professional prophets to a greater
or lesser extent, yet were clearly not false prophets. These paid staff-prophets were usually found in
groups, much like the ecstatics (see Dan. 2:2). 40/1041
The Old Testament records three noteworthy passages down this line (Deut. Xiii and xviii; Jer.
Xxiii; Ezek. Xii.21-xiv. 11). Deuteronomy xviii claims that what does not become fulfilled, was not
true prophecy. It should be remembered that this is a negative criterion, thus what does become
fulfilled is still not necessarily from God. When a false prophet makes a fulfilled prediction, this may
be a test of God’s people. Deuteronomy xiii deals theologically and strikes a clear and ringing blow; if
the prophet used other gods removed from the true God (v. 2), then he is obviously not of Yahweh.
Through Moses, the them was sealed on all future prophecy by setting the norm of the theology by
which all future prophets must accept. If a prophet presented fulfilled predictive prophecy, yet claimed
theology out of keeping with the norm set down through Moses, the people had a false prophet.
Jeremiah xxiii, the second passage dealing with false prophets, expounds on the Deuteronomy
xiii passage by painting a false prophet as immoral (v. 10-14) and condoning others’ immorality (v. 17);
he preached of peace but not a God like peace, but an artificial, manufactured peace. The true prophet
presented a message of convincing and repentance (v. 29) and calls the people to righteousness and
obedience (v. 22). 40/1042
It is very important, however, to remember the reason for the severe words of the prophets. One
of the reasons the books of the prophets have been carved up so much by the critics is because of the
mistaken impression that true prophets have only one message--doom. This is not the whole case. The
reason these prophets do not begin with a message of peace is because God-like peace come only
through holiness, righteousness and repentance. The theme of the prophet has been set by Moses,
which is the theme of God’s Law. False prophets, according to Jeremiah, steal the name of the Lord,
use their own authority in His name and claim their own self-exalted status (v. 30-32). The true
prophet is commissioned by Yahweh, and speaks in His name, with his authority (v. 18, 21, 22, 28, 32).
The third passage on this topic is in Ezekiel (xii. 21-xiv. 11), which resembles Jeremiah. He is
clear to say false prophets guide their own path and drum up their own prophecies (xiii, 2, 3).
Consequently, they lead the people with false assurance (xiii, 4-7). Their signature is a message of a
false peace (again) and fragile optimism (xiii. 10-16), devoid of building spiritual, righteous holiness
(xiii. 22). The true prophet digs directly to the soul and challenges his hearers head-on to examine
themselves (xiv. 4-5) for the quality of life which they already know God demands (xiv. 7,8). “We see
again that the true prophet is the Mosaic prophet.” He does not speak quietly, but with all the boldness
of the God of the Exile, repeating in new, fresh tones the truths that have never been improved and
never been changed. 40/1042
Objections to Predictive Prophecy--Postdating:
Dating of Prophecies:
As far as the question of dating of prophecies goes, many people will attack predictive prophecy
from the standpoint of post-dating, that is placing the time of the prophecy after the event of the
fulfillment rather than before. Unfortunately for the critic, these prophets make their prophecies very
clear--the tenses are very obvious. They claim to be exercising the miracle of predictive prophecy.
Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Merril F. Unger, Moody Press, 1966) places either the various
prophets’ ministries or the dating of the various books as follows:
592 - 570 BC
betw. 783 - 704, BC
626 - aft. 586 BC
2nd qtr. Of 8th cent. BC
748 - 690 BC
ab. 738 - 690 BC
before 300 BC
aft. 661- bef. 612
betw. 640 - 621 BC
1520 - 1400 BC
before 300 BC
605 - 538 BC
These dates are in some cases uncertain. This is because Unger’s uses the contents of the
prophets’ writings themselves to determine the dating of the various books. Sometimes, the prophet
did not clearly indicate the exact time of his writing. Joel and Obadiah are the only ones in the list in
which we are simply not supplied with concrete information by the authors to establish a firm date.
All of the Old Testament prophets were translated into Greek in the Greek Septuagint by about
280 BC. Therefore, we can assume that all of the prophets (including Joel and Obadiah) were written
before this time.
Dating of Ezekiel:
Ezekiel will be used more than any other prophet in this book, and so the book will be touched
on briefly with the dating of the book at 570 BC. We will begin with The Encyclopedia Britannica:
“There is a wide variety of opinion regarding the unity and date of the Book of Ezekiel. According to
the book itself, the prophet’s career extended from 592 to 570, but one scholar (James Smith) places
him in the 7th century at the time of Manasseh and another (N. Messel) after the time of Nehemiah,
around 400 BC. Most, however, accept the general chronology of the book.” 13/ix. 17
“Two fragments of the text of Ezekiel IV, 16-vol. 1 were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran
Cave I, and fragments of two manuscripts of Ezekiel were reported from Cave IV.” 13/ix 16
“Oft repeated typical words and phrases give a strong impression of literary unity to the book: ‘Then
they will know that I am the Lord’ (more than 50 times), ‘As I live, says the Lord God’ (13 times), ‘my
sabbaths’ (12 times), ‘countries’ (24 times), ‘idols’ (…about 40 times), ‘walking in my statutes’ (11
times), etc.”. 13/ix. 17
Joseph P. Free in his book Archaeology and Bible History (Scripture Press, 1972) says that
when he “first took a course in Biblical Criticism…I was told that the critics had not touched the book
of Ezekiel, and that the validity of the book was accepted….However, in recent years the book has
been attacked…but, as W. F. Albright has pointed out, this critical attitude is not justified in the least,
and to his way of thinking there seems to be every reason for going back to a more conservative
attitude” (Albright, W. F. ‘The Old Testament and Archaeology,’ in Alleman, H. C. and E. E. Flack, Old
Testament Commentary, Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1948; p. 16). 15/226
Free continues that, “One of C. C. Torrey’s (Professor at Yale University) principal arguments
against the authenticity of the book concerned the unusual dating of events by the years ‘of king
Jehoiachin’s captivity’ (AOTA, 164). This method of dating, however, now turns out to be an
‘inexpugnable argument’ (AOTA, 164) in favor of the genuineness of Ezekiel, as shown by
archaeological discoveries. From the seal impression on three jar handles (For a description of these
jar handles, see Free’s Archaeology and Bible History, section on ‘Archaeological Confirmation of
Jehoiachin’s Exile in Babylon.’) bearing the reference to ‘Eliakim steward of Jehoiachin,’ it was
deduced that Eliakim was the administrator of the crown property which still belonged to Jehoiachin
while he was in exile. Evidently Jehoiachin was still considered as king by the people of Judah, and
Zedekiah was regarded as king only in the sense of being regent for his captive nephew, Jehoiachin.
Thus it was quite in harmony with the attitude of the Jewish people for Ezekiel to date events according
to the reign of Jehoiachin, even though he was in exile.” 15/226.
The conclusion is striking. Joseph P. Free sums it up by saying that “The unusual system of
dating in the book of Ezekiel, then, is not an evidence of its lack of authenticity, but, in the light of the
archaeological evidence, ‘proves its authenticity in a most striking way’” (AOTA, 165). 15/227
E. J. Young (Introduction to the Old Testament, used by permission of Wm. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Co., 1956), a highly respected scholar, made these observations on Ezekiel. “The above
survey will show how varied are the views of recent negative criticism with respect to the book of
Ezekiel. The so-called problems of the book are best solved upon the basis of the traditional view,
namely, that Ezekiel himself composed the entire book.” 53/237
Young continues with references to H. H. Rowley and S. R. Driver: “In 1953 H. H. Rowley
defended the essential unity of the book (The Book of Ezekiel in Modern Study), and pointed out in a
most convincing manner that the’…theories that transfer either the prophet himself or his literary
creator to a post-exilic age are unconvincing’ (p. 182). This work of Rowley’s is an excellent
introduction to the study of modern criticism of Ezekiel.” 53/237
“And Driver,” adds E. J. Young, “wrote, ‘No critical question arises in connection with the
authorship of the book, the whole from beginning to end bearing unmistakably the stamp of a single
mind’ (S. R. Driver: Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, p. 279). Indeed, the reasons
for holding to the authorship of the entire book by Ezekiel are rather strong. The book is
autobiographical--the first person singular is employed throughout. The book does make the strong
impression that it is the work of a single personality. Further, many of the prophecies are dated and
localized. The similarity of thought and arrangement throughout make it clear that the entire book is
the work of one mind. Hence, we may with confidence hold to the view that Ezekiel was the author.
And it is quite interesting to note that one of the latest scholarly commentaries, that by Cooke, holds
that Ezekiel is the basic author of the book.” 53/234
Prophecies of Specific Places:
Peter Stoner in Science Speaks (Moody Press, 1963) made these comments about the prophecies
of Tyre, Samaria, Gaza-Ashkelon, Jerusalem Enlargement, Palestine, Moab-Ammon, Petra-Edom, and
“No human being has ever made predictions which hold any comparison to those we have considered,
and had them accurately come true. The span of time between the writing of these prophecies and their
fulfillment is so great that the most severe critic cannot claim that the predictions were made after the
events happened.” 47/115 And further, “Others may say that these accounts in the Bible are not
prophecies, but historical accounts written after the events happened. This is absurd, for all of these
prophecies are found in the Old Testament, and everyone will date its writing before Christ. One of
these prophecies was completely fulfilled before Christ. Two had small parts fulfilled before Christ
and the remaining parts after Christ. All other prophecies considered were completely fulfilled after
Christ. If we were to strike out all estimates given for parts of prophecies fulfilled before Christ, our
probability number would still be so large that the strength of its argument could not be
H. Harold Hartzler, Ph. D., the Secretary-Treasurer of the American Scientific Affiliation, of
Goshen College, Indiana, writes in the foreword of Peter Stoner’s book:
“The manuscript for Science Speaks has been carefully reviewed by a committee of the American
Scientific Affiliation members and by the Executive council of the same group and has been found, in
general, to be dependable and accurate in regard to the scientific material presented. The mathematical
analysis included is based upon principles of probability which are thoroughly sound and Professor
Stoner has applied these principals in a proper and convincing way.” 47/4
Bernard Ramm in Protestant Christian Evidences (Moody Press, 1957) made the following
comment about the prophecies in his book:
“Furthermore, in practically every case we have given the radical the benefit of the doubt in dating the
prophecies, so that the examples of fulfilled predictions lie outside the dates of the passages set by the
radical critic.” 43/96
Pre-Suppositions of Critics:
The problems of most critics of predictive prophecy are their pre-suppositions that we live in a
closed system, there is no God, miracles are not possible, and therefore there can be no predictive
prophecy. So what happens is that they read a book containing prophetic utterances and see the
fulfillment at a much later date, and therefore conclude that the so-called prophetic utterance had to be
at a later date. The conclusion of the coinciding of the prophecy with its fulfillment is a result of the
pre-suppositions and not the evidence of archaeology or the facts of history.
James Davis, a student at Louisiana Tech., who did research in this area for these lecture notes,
says that concerning many critics of prophecy he:
“…used to wonder if what these men say really is true. I don’t anymore; not since I began
seeing how these contentions were disproven again and again by archaeology and science. I
finally saw that the skeptics are the real enemies of the truth. They are the ones who have the
biased attitudes and the dogmatic premises. They gave all their accusations at first and never
quit repeating them. However, one by one, their accusations began to dwindle in number and
potency as archaeology continued to objectively search and find facts upon facts. Eventually, I
refused to even give critics the benefit of the doubt and gave up confidence in them
Specific Fulfillment of Prophecy:
For each prophecy treated, this section will quote the Scriptures containing the prophecies
alongside the comments of their historical fulfillment in order to assist the reader in realizing the
impact of predictive prophecy. Thomas Urquhart in The Wonders of Prophecy (C. C. Cook, n.d.)
succinctly states that: ‘The seeker after certainty in religion will be grateful for the multiplicity as well
as for the minuteness and distinctness, of Scripture prophecy.” 49/93
Urquart says that the prophecies: “…contain what I may call prophetic pictures. They do not
merely indicate one feature among the many after-characteristics of peoples and of countries: they
describe one feature after another till their condition is fully portrayed. With the fulfillment of one, or
perhaps two, of these it might be imagined that chance had had to do, but, as one after another is added,
the suspicion becomes more and more unreasonable, till, before the accumulating evidence, it is swept
away completely and forever.” 49/44
Henry Morris, in The Bible and Modern Science (Moody Press, 1951, revised 1956), makes a
superb point about problems with archaeological findings when he writes that: “Problems still exist, of
course, in the complete harmonization of archaeological material with the Bible, but none so serious as
not to bear real promise of imminent solution through further investigation. It must be extremely
significant that, in view of the great mass of corroborative evidence regarding the Biblical history of
these periods, there exists today not one unquestionable find of archaeology that proves the Bible to be
in error at any point.” 37/95
Bernard Ramm, in his Protestant Christian Evidences (Moody Press, 1957), made a good
analysis of the position a Christian apologist is in when he sets forth the case for the faith through
fulfilled prophecy: “The enemy of Christianity must silence all out guns: we need to fire only one of
them. Therefore, all the potentially fulfilled prophecies must be explained away on this basis or the
objection is futile.” 43/88
The enemies of Christianity have been trying to silence the guns in many ways for many years,
but what follows in this section begins the firing of 12 guns with many ramifications--the guns of
prophecy yell loudest and longest and are most difficult to silence.
Introduction and Scripture:
One of the most unusual prophecies in the Bible is that concerning the ancient city of Tyre.
Probably all books in defense of Christianity will use this example, and with good reason. Soon this
reason will make itself clear.
(592-570 BC. )
3. Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up many nations
against you as the sea brings up its waves.
4. “And they will destroy the walls of Tyre and Break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from
her and make her a bare rock.”
7. For thus says the Lord God, Behold, I will bring upon Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of
Babylon, king of kings, with horses, chariots, cavalry and a great army.
8. “He will slay your daughters on the mainland with the sword; and he will make siege walls against you,
cast up a mound against you, and raise up a large shield against you.
12. “Also they will make a spoil of your riches and a prey of your merchandise, break down your walls
and destroy your pleasant houses, and throw your stones and your timbers and your debris into the
14. “And I will make you a bare rock; you will be a place for the spreading of nets. You will be built no
more, for I the Lord have spoken,” declares the Lord God.
21. “I shall bring terrors on you, and you will be no more, through you will be sought, you will never be
found again,” declares the Lord God.
Nebuchadnezzar will destroy the mainland city of Tyre (26:8).
Many nations against Tyre (26:3).
Make her a bare rock; flat like the top of a rock (26:4).
Fishermen will spread nets over the site (26:5).
Throw the debris into the water (26:12).
Never be rebuilt (26:14).
Never to be found again (26:21).
The predictions previously mentioned seem to be self explanatory. This is the type of prophecy
which sounds contradictory--fortunately history is not contradictory, so all one must do is see the story
of Tyre and then compare the prophecies to it.
A secular source (Nina Jidejjian, Tyre Through the Ages. Dar El-Mashreq Publishers, 1969)
made this observation: “Ezekiel’s denunciation (especially 27.27) shows how important ancient Tyre
was in the eyes of the Hebrew prophet and how varied and enriching was her trade.” 22/1
Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to mainland Tyre three years after the prophecy. The Encyclopedia
Britannica says that “After a 13-year siege (585-573 BC.) by Nebuchadnezzar II, Tyre made terms and
acknowledged Babylonian suzerainty. In 538 BC. Tyre, with the rest of Phoenicia, passed to the
suzerainty of Achaemenid Persia.” 13/xxii. 452.
When Nebuchadnezzar broke the gates down, he found the city almost empty. The majority of
the people had moved by ship to an island about one-half mile off the coast and fortified a city there.
The mainland city was destroyed in 573 (Prediction 1), but the city of Tyre on the island remained a
powerful city for several hundred years.
Alexander the Great:
The next incident was with Alexander the Great. “In his war on the Persians,” writes the
Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Alexander III, after defeating Darius III at the Battle of Issus (333),
marched southward toward Egypt, calling upon the Phoenician cities to open their gates, as it was part
of his general plan to deny their use to the Persian fleet. The citizens of Tyre refused to do so, and
Alexander laid siege to the city. Possessing no fleet, he demolished old Tyre, on the mainland, and
with the debris built a mole 200 ft. (60m.) wide across the straits separating the old and new towns,
erecting towers and war engines at the farther end.” (Prediction 5) 13/xxii. 452.
Curtius, an ancient writer (Loeb Classical Library: Quintius Curtius IV. 2. 18-19) wrote
concerning the construction of the causeway by Alexander. He says much material was available from
Mount Libanus (trees for beams) and the Old City of Tyre supplied stones and dirt. (Prediction 5).
We can see very clearly from Arrian, a Greek historian, in History of Alexander and Indica II.
18, 19, 20 (Harvard University Press, 1954), how this great feat of conquering Tyre was accomplished.
Tyre was one city divided between the mainland and an Alcatraz-like island fortress. Nebuchadnezzar
took the mainland city but passed by the island city. Alexander planned, as Arrian related, to take all of
Tyre. It would obviously be a massive undertaking. The island was completely surrounded by
powerful walls, reaching to the very edges of the sea. The Tyrians and Alexander’s enemy the Persians
under Darius, had control of the sea, but this Greek general decided to build a land peninsula out to the
island. Work went well at first, but the depth increased as they progressed as did also the harassment
from the Tyrians. From their high walls, the islanders could do much damage, especially when one
remembers that the workers were prepared for work and not war, they wore work-clothes, not armor.
Occasionally the Tyrians would stage raids on the causeway which greatly retarded progress. Arrian
continues that this activity was countered by the Greeks with two tall towers built and manned directly
on the mole (causeway) for protection.
The Tyrians countered here with a full-scale raid on the whole operation which was very
successful; they made use of fire-ships to start the towers burning and then swarmed over the mole
after the Greeks were routed. General destruction of the mole was made to as great an extant as the
raiding party was capable. Arrian progressed to the sea struggle. Alexander realized he needed ships
he began pressuring and mustering conquered subjects to make ships available for this operation.
Alexander’s navy grew from cities and areas as follows: Sidon, Aradus, Byblus (these contributed
about 80 sail), ten from Rhodes, three from Soli and Mallos, ten from Lycia, a big one from Macedon,
and 120 from Cyprus. (Prediction 2).
With this now superior naval force at Alexander’s disposal, the conquest of Tyre through
completion of the land bridge was simply a question of time, how long would this take? Darius III,
Alexander’s Persian enemy, was not standing idle at this time, but finally the causeway was completed,
the walls were battered down, and mop-up operations began.
“The causeway still remains,” writes Philip Myers, “uniting the rock with the mainland. When
at last the city was taken after a siege of seven months, eight thousand of the inhabitants were slain and
thirty thousand sold into slavery.” 38/153.
The Tyrians had given good reason to arouse the hatred of the Greeks. These defenders tried
every ethical and not-so-ethical tactic to repulse the siege. John C. Beck says concerning her defeat
that “It was lamentable that Tyre had resisted and endured so thorough a defeat at the hands of the
Greek conqueror.” 4/13.
Philip Myers made an interesting quote here; he is a secular historian (not a theologian) and this
is found in a history textbook: “Alexander the Great…reduced it to ruins (332 BC.). she recovered in a
measure from this blow, but never regained the place she had previously held in the world. The larger
part of the site of the once great city is now bare as the top of a rock (Prediction 3)--a place where the
fishermen that still frequent the spot spread their nets to dry.” (Prediction 4) 38/55.
John C. Beck keeps the history of the island city of Tyre in the proper perspective: “The history
of Tyre does not stop after the conquest of Alexander. Men continue to rebuild her and armies continue
to besiege her walls until finally, after sixteen hundred years, she falls never to be rebuilt again.” 4/41.
“Returning from successful wars in Babylonia,” observes Nina Jidejian (Tyre Through the Ages,
Dar El-Mashreq, Publishers, 1969), “Antigonus easily reduced the cities of Phoenicia but met with firm
resistance from Tyre. Eighteen years had passed since Alexander had seized Tyre and the city had
recovered rapidly….After a siege of fifteen months Tyre was reduced by Antigonus.” 2/80, 81.
Antigonus is dated 314 BC., arithmetically. According to the International Standard Bible
Encyclopedia (p. 2499), Ptolemy II (Philadelphus) reigned from 285-247 BC.
“However when Ptolemy Philadelphus built the harbor of Bernice on the Red Sea and made a
road with stations and watering places to Coptos and reopened the canal which joined the Pelusiac
branch of the Nile to the Gulf of Suez, Tyre suffered a great and permanent loss. Traffic of the Red Sea
and the Indian Ocean which had formerly passed through the port of Eloth to Rhinocolura in Phoenicia
by way of Petra and thence to all parts of the Mediterranean by vessels of Tyre, now passed by way of
the canal to Alexandria. The wealth that formerly had flowed into Tyre now found its way to
Alexandria.” 22/81, 82.
Jidejian relates the Persian traveler Nasir-I-Khusrau’s visit and description at 1047 A.D.
22/122. “They have built the city on a rock (that is in the sea) after such a manner that the town hall for
one hundred yards only, is upon the dry land, and the remainder rises up from the very water. The
walls are built of hewn stone, their joints being set in bitumen in order to keep the water out. I estimate
the area of the town to be a thousand arsh [18 inches] square, and its caravanserais are built of five and
six stories, set one above the other. There are numerous fountains of water, bazaars are very clean; also
great in the quantity of wealth exposed. This city of Tyre is, in fact, renowned for wealth and power
among all the maritime cities of Syria. They have one erected a Mash-had (a shrine or place of
martyrdom) at the city gate, where one may see great quantities of carpets and hangings and lamps and
lanterns of gold and silver. The town itself stands on an eminence. Water is brought thereto from the
mountain; and leading up to the town-gate they have built arches (for the aqueduct) along which the
water comes into the city.” 39/11, 12.
The city was unfortunately captured by the Muslims which caused the Crusaders to fight for it,
which they did, and successfully retake the island. This place became an important base during the
Crusades, but according to Joseph Michaud, it was retaken. Michaud (History of the Crusades, George
Barrie, n.d.) describes the event:
“After the taking and destruction of Ptolemais, the sultan sent one of his emirs with a body of troops to
take possession of the city of Tyre; this city, seized with terror, opened its gates without
resistance….These cities, which had not afforded the least succour to Ptolemais, in the last great
struggle, and which believed themselves protected by a truce, beheld their population massacred,
dispersed, and led into slavery; the fury of the Mussulmans extended even to the stones, they seemed to
wish to destroy the very earth which the Christians had trod upon; their houses, their temples, the
monuments of their piety, their valour and their industry, everything was condemned to perish with
them by the sword or by fire.” (Prediction 6) 36/213.